Last night I saw the film Kick-Ass which has drawn a lot of criticism (and free publicity) due to the fact that young star Chloe Moretz, who plays Hit Girl, swears like a sailor and wields a sword like a betrayed bride. Yes, the film is violent. It's based on a Marvel comic series of the same name written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Marvel veteran John Romita Jr. and it follows the story of average high schooler Dave Lizewski. Dave comes up with the idea to become a superhero after having a chat with a couple of his comic book geek friends. Along the way he encounters real heroes Big Daddy, played by a DC obsessed Nicolas Cage, and his daughter Mindy,aka Hit Girl. Nicolas Cage is so obsessed in real life with DC, he actually named his child Kal-el after the Kryptonian name of Clark Kent (aka Superman). If this post has already gotten too geeky for you, it's probably time to stop reading now.
Kick-Ass after all is a film made by comic book geeks FOR comic book geeks, and one that isn't for the faint of heart.
When I was around 11 years old, a friend's older brother got me into comics. I started off reading Spiderman, Batman, Superman, The X-Men, Gen 13 and various others. I pretty much devoured what I was given. I adored Wolverine and loved his abilities and gruffness. I even went through a phase of about 4 years where I drew comics almost constantly. I had a subscription to a few (remember the famous death of Superman series?) and bought whatever I could with the little money I raised from working in my Mom's shop. Every birthday and Christmas for years I would ask for books. I scored Wolverine #1 and found out my Mom had spent hours ringing around to find a copy and finally hit paydirt at a comic book store about two hours drive from my town. This was before Google maps, so for my Mom to make the trip I now realise my enthusiasm for all things graphic must have been infectious. To this day I still occasionally buy a book (Frank Miller's stuff is amazing of course and I've bought Preacher but haven't finished reading it). Absolutely I'm there for every comic book film, no matter how awful I imagine it could be.
Because I've been out of the comics game for a while (with all the different versions of Spider-Man alone plus crossovers, who could keep up?) I hadn't heard about Kick-Ass until it was being adapted for the big screen. Of course, like most people, I had imaged what it would be like to be a superhero and what powers I would have (Jean Grey's telekinesis and ESP thank you very much). It's also incredibly fun to imagine just exactly how you'd use those powers and on whom. Kick-Ass fulfills these fantasies through the stupendous talent of the young Aaron Johnson, certain to be Hollywood's next big thing.
Relatively inexperienced director Matthew Vaughan manages to avoid a lot of action movie cliches and inject some really fresh stuff here, creating one of the most original and fun fight sequences I've ever seen. One word. Bazooka! Some scenes perfectly imitate those of other related films and comic book movie geeks will go nuts trying to spot all the references and make the connections. When you get them right away, you feel like a bit of a hero yourself. This is just one of the ways in which Vaughan managed to engage his target audience. I also have to give him BIG props for the guerrilla marketing campaign such as having guys in Kick-Ass costumes running around spray painting sidewalks etc. Great stuff.
Unfortunately, I noticed that some off the scenes that connected the action in Kick-Ass tended to drag slightly and the overall tone of the film was uneven. Sometimes it seemed as though Vaughan wanted to stress the "killing is bad" moral and others it seemed as though he wanted the audience to cheer for severed limbs. I felt confused by this as I simultaneously cheered for Hit Girl and felt uncomfortable, wanting her to be whisked away by child services. I also thought the bad guy, played by Mark Strong, could have been more menacing and ditto Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist. A gold star to Nic Cage who was funny and creepy as Big Daddy. He didn't hold back and I was happy to see he didn't phone this one in.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kick-Ass. I thought the young leads were phenomenal and in the end I was able to switch off my moral compass and just enjoy the movie. Though I feel the entire film needed just a bit more depth and drama, I'm excited at the prospect of a sequel. I give Kick-Ass 3.5/5 stars.